UM MOOC Problem-Based Learning: Principles and Design

Students at the centre! 


Maastricht University (UM) has a strong tradition in Problem-Based Learning (PBL), focussing on small-group learning centered around authentic problems. At first sight, this is in contrast with the large-scale and often teacher-driven set-up of MOOCs. UM is, however, interested in exploring the potential of online PBL and the potential of MOOCs. To gain first-hand experience and to explore implications for UM staff and students UM developed a MOOC about PBL which is designed –as far as possible in the setting of a MOOC- in line with modern learning principles that are also at the basis of PBL: constructive, contextual, collaborative and self-directed learning: Problem-Based Learning: Principles and design. Students at the centre!

A university-wide project team, consisting of 34 people from all faculties, was responsible for this innovative MOOC design. The course is centered around a set of authentic problems organized in three different tracks:

  • The role of the tutor in PBL
  • Designing PBL problems and courses
  • Assessment and organisational aspects of PBL

Participants work in groups on authentic problems in a similar way as face-to-face PBL tutor groups, except that they work online and do not have a tutor.

The MOOC was executed in 2015, from October 5 to December 12. It started with 2989 participants. Just over a quarter (26%) filled in their profiles and became part one of the 111 teams. 49 of the 111 teams finished the course (i.e. handed in the last assignment) and 264 participants were received a certificate of participation. A completion rate of almost 10% which is quite normal in the world of MOOCs. The project team is currently analyzing results, including questionnaire and observation data, and developing plans for the future.


More information about the MOOC project on: